History of Mount Athos
The first monasteries were initially built during the era of Constantine the Great, but lots of them were destructed. Most of them though were rebuilt by various kings.
The first Mount Athos’ residents were Peter the Athonite, and later Euthymios the Thessalonikes. The most important reasons for Mount Athos’ inhabitance by ascetic monks were the cities’destructions by various wars, having as result the destruction of the monasteries as well. Iconoclasm that broke out in Constantinople, also played a great role, forcing lots of monks to look for a shelter to isolated locations.
In 1960, Athanasios the Athonite, coming from Minor Asia, and with the valuable help of Nikephoros Phokas, founded the Megistis Lavras Monastery. A little later were founded the monasteries of Iviron, Vatopediou, Chilandariou, and through the centuries, the other monasteries as well.
Since then, Mount Athos suffered from lots of destructions and wars. It still remains though intact and it is considered to be the biggest castle of orthodoxy.
According to mythology the name Athos belongs to a Thracian giant. During the conflict between the Gods and the Giants, Athos threw a huge rock against Poseidon (the God), but the rock slipped through his fingers and fell to the sea creating a huge block of land which is now Mount Athos.
In a different version it was Poseidon who threw the rock against Athos. The rock crushed Athos and burried him underneath. This rock was called Mount Athos.
Up to the 3rd century BC, there where small Greek towns in the peninsula. Later, for unknown reasons, these towns fell into decay or were destroyed, resulting in a deserted area for many centuries.
According to tradition, the Virgin Mary with John the Evangelist, or their way to visit Lazarus in Cyprus, encountered a stormy sea that forced them to temporarily seek refuge in the port which is now the Holy Monastery of Ivira. The Virgin Mary, admiring the wild beauty of the place, asked God to give her the mountain as a present. Then the voice of our Lord was heard saying: "Let this place be your lot, your garden and your paradise, as well as a salvation, a haven for those who seek salvation". Since then, Mount Athos is considered as "The Garden of the Virgin Mary".
In the 5th century AD, the first monks came to Mount Athos, who disappointed from the boredom of everyday communal life, found this beautiful and uninhabited place ideal for worship their God.
Mount Athos is autonomous and is dominated by the Patriarchate in Istanbul. The Holy Supervision is constituted by the abbots of the monasteries, and it has its headquarters in Karies.
There are 20 abbeys from which the 17 are Greek, 1 Russian, 1 Serbian and 1 Bulgarian. ,
In a hierarchical order the monasteries of Mount Athos are:
- The Holy Monastery of the Great Lavra
- The Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopaedi
- The Holy Monastery of Iviron
- The Holy Monastery of Chilandari (or Chelandari)
- The Holy Monastery of Dionysiou
- The Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou
- The Holy Monastery of Pantokratoros
- The Holy Monastery of Xiropotamou
- The Holy Monastery of Zographou
- The Holy Monastery of Docheiariou
- Τhe Holy Monastery of Karakalou
- The Holy Monastery of Filotheou
- The Holy Monastery of Simonos Petras
- The Holy Monastery of Agiou Pavlou
- The Holy Monastery of Stavronikita
- The Holy Monastery of Xenophontos
- The Holy Monastery of Grigoriou
- The Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou
- The Holy Monastery of Saint Panteleimonos
- The Holy Monastery of Konstamonitou
The skete are:
- The Nea Skiti
- Skiti Agia Anna
- Skiti Agias Triados - Kafsokalivia
- Skiti Timiou Prodromou (Rumanian)
- Skiti Agiou Dimitriou
- Skiti Agiou Andrea
- Skiti Timiou Prodomou or Iberian
- Skite Agiou Panteleimonos (Koutloumousiou)
- Skiti Agiou Dimitriou (Lakkoskiti)
- Skite of Prophet Elias
- Skite Xenophontos